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Administration for Children and Families Releases Disingenuous Application Announcement for Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program

On July 15, the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program was granted a one-year funding extension by Congress. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program was originally authorized for five years, 1998–2002. The program was reauthorized through June 30, 2009, and will receive another $50 million in federal funds for Fiscal Year 2009.  

Upon its reauthorization, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which oversees the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program, issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Fiscal Year 2009. In the Fiscal Year 2007 and 2009 applications, the mandated requirements are the same: states must operate with the A-H federal definition of “abstinence education.”[i] (ACF did not issue an RFP for Fiscal Year 2008, instead it just asked each participating state to submit a letter testifying that there were not going to be any material changes to its program.) 
These requirements specify, in part, that “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of all human sexual activity” and that “sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”[ii]
The significant change to the FY09 application is the timeframe: states are submitting proposals for five years, rather than the one year in which funding has been established for. This suggests the program has a secure future, although it does not. Rather, the optimism of a five year program likely represents attempts by the Bush administration to create the appearance that the program will continue even beyond the next election.   
In the letter to the states, Robert Patterson of the ACF wrote, “I look forward to continuing our partnerships with states and territories in the important task of helping American young people experience the health, psychological, emotional, and social benefits of keeping sexual activity, pregnancy, and childbearing in marriage.”
The application announcement comes on the heels of ACF reporting that 25 states are no longer participating in the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program as of the end of Fiscal Year 2008.[iii] A majority of those states that have left the program have done so based on the strong research and evaluations demonstrating the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. 

“The five year timeframe put forth by the ACF is a clear attempt to mislead the states into believing stable funding has been created,” said William Smith, the vice president of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). He continued, “This is the ACF’s reaction to 25 states exiting a program consistently shown to be ineffective and harmful to youth.”   

[i] Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “State Abstinence Education Grant Program (AEGP) for FY 2009 through FY 2013,” 18 July 2008, accessed 18 July 2008, <>.

[ii] Scott Swenson, “Bush HHS Tries End Run on Abstinence-Only Funds,” (22 July 2008), accessed 29 July 2008, <>.

[iii] Kevin Freking, “States turn down US Abstinence grants,” Associated Press, (24 June 2008) accessed 2 July 2008, <>.